An Imam who probed the Tory leadership contenders about Islamophobia during the television debate has branded their responses “disappointing” and “deluded”.
Abdullah Patel asked the five candidates whether they believed words had consequences, and said he had seen first-hand the impact of Islamophobic rhetoric on his community.
Boris Johnson said he was “sorry for the offence” his comments about veiled Muslim women looking like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers” had caused, while Michael Gove condemned Islamophobia as “repugnant” and attacked Jeremy Corbyn for comments he claimed were “disgusting” and anti-Semitic.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid urged all the candidates to commit to an external investigation into the issue within the Tory party, and his rivals nodded in agreement.
Writing on Twitter after the debate, Mr Patel said he had asked the question because he wanted the candidates to promise that “things would change”, adding: “The hate is real.”
“As an Imam, I’m exposed to many incidents which happen in my community, and of course, as a visible Muslim, I also witness it first hand. I have received numerous incident reports of blatant racism against members of my community, from spitting and swearing at Muslim women…To asking students coming to my mosque if they had bombs in their bags,” he wrote.
He added: “What I got as a response was nothing short of disappointing and deluded: @BorisJohnson forgot my name, spoke about his G(reat) grandfather and about Iran. Gove used the opportunity to have a dig at @jeremycorbyn…
“@Jeremy_Hunt used the chance to speak about how he can’t be racist because he has an immigrant wife, and @RoryStewartUK forgot that this is also OUR country. The only positive from the debate was @sajidjavid making them all commit to an independent investigation into Islamophobia in the @Conservatives.”
In his response to the question, Mr Johnson said he believed his Muslim great grandfather would have been “very proud” to have seen him become foreign secretary.
He added that when his great grandfather came to the UK in 1912 “he did so because he knew it was a beacon of generosity and openness and a willingness to welcome people from around the world,” adding: “If I am prime minister I will ensure that that is the way our country acts and behaves.”
At one point he appeared to forget Mr Patel’s name, referring to him as “my friend over there”, before presenter Emily Maitlis interjected: “Abdullah”.
After Mr Javid raised the prospect of the Tory Islamophobia inquiry, he said it was “great that we all agree on that”, adding: “Behind it is a concern… of growing anti-Muslim hatred in our country, certainly over the last few years, in all parts of society, wherever that is – including in political parties – it must be absolutely rooted out.”